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Fishing Forecast

The annual Nebraska Fishing Forecast includes useful information about the best current locations and seasons to catch certain fish species.

Fishing Forecast

Fishing Forecast

With about 450 lakes and streams open to public fishing, deciding where to fish in Nebraska can sometimes be challenging. Our annual fishing forecast can help. The forecast contains research statistics and graphs to explain sampling information for important sport fish species sampled across Nebraska from the previous year along with useful tips from our fisheries division staff.

Take your fishing to the next level

Discover the best waters to fish for a particular species and other useful tips. Below is a breakdown of the annual fishing forecast by species.

Nebraska’s largest waters are the state’s best walleye habitats and consistently provide the best fishing. Walleye populations in these waters are dynamic, always changing, often in response to fluctuating water levels. The highest total sampling rates of walleyes last fall were at Winters Creek, Merritt, Oliver, Big Alkali and SutherlandBig Alkali, Winters Creek, Sutherland and Maloney will be very good for 15- to 20-inch walleyes in 2024.

Anglers targeting big walleyes should plan trips to McConaughy, Sherman and Minatare reservoirs. Smaller waters are less ideal walleye habitats, but several of those will offer some walleye opportunities this year. Burchard, Prairie Queen and Yankee Hill will give anglers a chance to catch walleyes in eastern Nebraska. Oliver Reservoir in the Panhandle again had a lot of walleyes sampled last fall, but most of them need another year to grow.

White bass also are open-water predator fish that thrive in Nebraska’s largest reservoirs. Water level fluctuations also drive reservoir white bass population dynamics. The most white bass in 2024 will be found at Sutherland, Sherman, Calamus, Whitney, Harlan and Maloney. Sherman, Calamus, Whitney, Swanson, Harlan and Enders will be particularly good for white bass larger than 12 inches this year. For fish larger than 15 inches, anglers should target Sutherland, Whitney, Sherman and Minatare.

Wipers are white bass X striped bass hybrids, and like their parent species, they also are most successful in open-water habitats – Nebraska’s largest reservoirs. Southwest reservoirs Medicine Creek, Swanson and Red Willow will offer high numbers of wipers in 2024. Harlan will have numbers of wipers this year as well as the canal reservoirs Sutherland and Maloney. Anglers looking for trophy wipers in 2024 will find Elwood and McConaughy offering the most and biggest with some fish larger than 20 inches also present in Calamus, Harlan and Johnson. In eastern Nebraska, Branched Oak will provide anglers opportunities to catch wipers (remember all wipers caught at Branched Oak must be immediately released).

Anglers can take their kids to catch some “sunnies” on just about any small body of water in Nebraska. The best waters always are the ones that produce numbers of 8-inch and larger bluegills. Small- to medium-size reservoirs offer some of the best bluegill fishing every year, with Walnut Creek, Maskenthine, Maple Creek, Kramper and Wilson Creek 2X topping the list in 2024. Sandhills lakes offer lower densities of bluegills but can produce some trophy bluegills, with the biggest fish exceeding a pound. The best Sandhills lakes this year will be Shell, Dewey and Frye. Anglers should remember that bluegills that big are rare fish and worthy of having a picture taken and then returned to the water. Pits and ponds like Redtail, Archway #1 and Yanney will also produce some quality bluegills this year.

Crappies are another panfish that can be found throughout Nebraska, with the quest being finding waters that will produce fish larger than 10 inches. Red Willow, Oxbow Trails, Davis Creek, Iron Horse Trail and Branched Oak will be some of the state’s best crappie waters 2024. Other reservoirs that will be good for crappies will be Yankee Hill, Walnut Creek, Sherman, Medicine Creek and Harlan. Again, Sandhills lakes tend to have lower densities of panfish like crappies, but can offer some of the biggest, fattest, black crappies in the state. Crescent and Dewey lakes will be the best of the Sandhills crappie fisheries this year.

Water bodies that offer stable water levels, clean water and an abundance of shallow water cover, especially aquatic vegetation, are those in which largemouth bass thrive. In Nebraska, small reservoirs, Sandhill lakes, pits, and ponds tend to provide the best of that habitat. Some of those waters can have high densities of bass which favor producing excellent panfish fishing as largemouth bass keep panfish numbers in check. However, waters with lots of bass may not necessarily be the best for big bass. When looking at the sampling data for the best bass waters, those with the highest numbers of bass may not offer opportunities to catch fish larger than 15 inches. On the other hand, lower densities of largemouth bass can offer anglers the best chances to catch bass larger than 15 inches. Some small- to medium-size reservoirs that will be particularly good this year include Grove, Hedgefield, Buckskin Hills, Kramper and Summit. Pits are some of the best bass fisheries in the state, Louisville State Recreation Area pits #2 and #3, Bufflehead and North Kearney Rest Area will offer some excellent bass fishing in 2024. Many Sandhills lakes suffered winterkill last winter, but Frye Lake will still be a good bet for 15-inch and larger bass. Private waters always produce some of the best bass fishing in the state, and many Nebraska anglers have permission to fish at least one of those privately-owned waters. In addition, some private pits and ponds have been enrolled in the Open Fields and Waters program and are open to the public. See the Public Access Atlas.

Channel catfish are a popular fish in Nebraska and are found widely across the state. Big Alkali, East Twin, Branched Oak, Pawnee, Minatare and Sutherland reservoirs will all offer good numbers of 16-inch and larger channel cats in 2024. For even larger cats, fish longer than 24 inches, anglers should plan to fish Box Butte, Red Willow and Davis Creek. Catch and release of large, trophy catfish is a practice that should be considered by anglers on any Nebraska water as it takes years to grow channel cats that large. For a different experience, try Nebraska’s warm-water rivers like the Missouri, Platte, Elkhorn or Niobrara as they also are excellent catfish fisheries. There are some areas where public access is available on Nebraska rivers, check out the Open Fields and Waters program for access to warm-water streams and rivers on private lands.

Nebraska also has waters that support cold-water fish year-round where anglers can pursue a Trout Slam catching rainbows, browns, brooks, and possibly even cutthroats and tigers (brown trout X brook trout hybrids). Most of the coldwater trout streams are in western and northern parts of the state; the East Branch of Verdigre Creek, Long Pine, Soldier and Ninemile creeks are favorites among trout anglers. This year, the rainbow trout fishing at Lake Ogallala will continue to be good, and anglers might even catch some cutties from the White River and the Wood Reserve Ponds in northwest Nebraska’s Pine Ridge.

Diverse fishing opportunities

Nebraska is known for its diverse fishing opportunities. Besides the species highlighted above, there are a variety of other fish that can be pursued. Learn more about these additional species below.

Redear sunfish are another species of sunfish species in Nebraska that can be caught at Prairie Queen, West Brady and Walnut Creek.

Smallmouth bass can be caught at SutherlandJohnson and McConaughy, as well as the Missouri River in northeast Nebraska.

Blue catfish can be found in reservoirs like Medicine Creek, Branched Oak, Pawnee, and Swanson, but look to the Missouri River in southeast Nebraska for the biggest blue cats in the state – some fish weighing triple digits.

Flathead catfish are another species of large catfish that can be found in the Missouri River, as well as in reservoirs like Harlan, Sherman, Branched Oak and the Tri-County canal system. All flatheads at Branched Oak must be released immediately after capture and anglers should consider releasing big flatties on other fisheries as well.

Fishing for sauger will be best on Lewis and Clark Reservoir and the Missouri River in northeast Nebraska, but Johnson Reservoir and the Tri-County canal system, including Gallagher Canyon and Plum Creek Canyon, also have good numbers of sauger.

Saugeye are a walleye X sauger hybrid and stocking is producing some excellent angling opportunities for them at Cunningham, Olive Creek and Whitney.

Following winterkills last winter, yellow perch numbers will be limited in 2024, but some yellow perch fishing will be found at Crane Lake in the Sandhills. Sutherland and Maloney reservoirs will also offer anglers some yellow perch.

Sandhills lakes are some of the best Northern Pike habitats in the state, as well; Clear, Dewey, Smith (Wildlife Management Area) and Walgren lakes will provide some pike fishing in 2024 along with Box Butte Reservoir. Reservoirs in southern and eastern Nebraska typically are too warm for cool-water northern pike, but Wanahoo and Flanagan are relatively new and have some pike habitat and pike fishing now. All pike are required to be released at Wanahoo and Flanagan.

To catch this trophy, toothy predator, anglers should target Merritt, Calamus and Zorinsky reservoirs, as well as Mormon Island West and Grand Island’s L.E. Ray LakeCottonwood-Steverson also has an excellent muskie population.

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